Ski resorts by train

Will the Eurostar via Lyon service run in 2018-19?

Sat 26 May, 2018


Daniel Elkan

You might be wondering whether the Eurostar to the French Alps via Lyon route is going to run in the 2018-19 season.  Indeed, some of you have been emailing me to ask.

It’s a good question, one to which I can’t answer with 100% certainty, but can with 97% certainty.  

The London – Lyon Eurostar route, launched in 2015, provided a useful route to a wide variety of ski resorts.  The London-to-Lyon portion, by a direct Eurostar calling at Ashford en-route, took 3hours 40 minutes.  Combined with a local SNCF train from Lyon, the route meant that you could reach loads of ski resorts without changing in Paris, and it also provided a useful alternative to the Eurostar Ski Train for dates when that had sold out.  It added important extra capacity for skiers wanting to travel by train to the Alps.

Eurostar is running the route this summer, but it looks like they won’t run the service this winter.  Together with France Montagnes (the umbrella organisation for French ski resorts), I’ve tried hard to persuade Eurostar to do so.  In January we got 50 ski resort and Alpine regional tourism offices, ski tour operators and relevant ski-industry organisations to sign a letter-petition to Eurostar asking Eurostar to keep the service running in winter.  The letter contains several ideas for how the running of the service could be improved - and I delivered this to Eurostar's office (see photo).  

These suggestions, I felt, were badly needed. The plain truth is that for the two years that Eurostar ran the service in winter (2015 and 2016) it marketed the service badly:  skiers were left in the dark about their destination options, or given the wrong information; tour operators were not proactively informed about the service; and it was difficult to book the service combined with local SNCF trains, as any skier would want to do.

I have had some feedback that while Eurostar appreciated the sentiment of the letter and the breadth of support of organisations wanting the service to continue, it currently doesn’t plan to run it in winter.

For train-loving skiers in the know, this is a blow but not a tragedy. Travelling on the direct Eurostar Ski Train is obviously easy; yet going via Paris is also a great journey, with many options.  If you change station from Paris Gare du Nord to Paris Gare de Lyon by taxi, then even if you have a lot of luggage, it’s easy.

You might be interested to know the suggestions made in the letter to Eurostar.  Here is an extract:  

“The following suggestions could also help increase the success of the service.
1. Perhaps the service could only run from London to Lyon, without going further (assuming that in winter relatively few travellers were staying on the Eurostar beyond Lyon).
2. Onward SNCF trains from Lyon to the Alps could possibly be timed to fit even better with the via Lyon service, assuming that SNCF would be open to adjusting timings.
3. The Eurostar to Lyon plus the onward local SNCF train could be made bookable in one go, ideally via the Eurostar website as well as via other sites like Voyages SNCF, Loco2, Trainline etc.
4. Fixed-price fares for tour operators made available, so that rail-ski packages can be created and marketed effectively. There are a number of ski tour operators that are interested in selling the via-Lyon service.
  5. A bespoke ‘via-Lyon to the Alps’ section on Eurostar’s website recreated, so that skiers can view journey information and ski-destination information.
6. Film and photo content showing skiers what the journey is like, so they can see how smooth and easy it is. A film would be inspiring and reassuring for skiers to view and useful content for partners to use for marketing and PR.”

This is not the end of the campaign, but the beginning.  We’ll continue until the Lyon service, or something equivalent is reinstated.

Rome wasn’t built in a day (apparently it took a few).